Teed off

Golfer angry at club’s sexist rules

FREMANTLE’S private golf course is under pressure to ditch its blokey ways.

A week after Australia’s Human Rights Commission blew the whistle on widespread sexism in the sport, local golfer Gaye Green’s got the Royal Fremantle Golf Club in her sights.

Ms Green says she was shocked to find she can’t play a round with her husband on Saturdays because the club reserves the day for men.

A timeslot is set aside for business women, but as a retiree Ms Green doesn’t qualify.

“It makes me really angry,” she told the Herald.

“Things are changing too slowly for women. We’ve still got to break barriers. Something like this is blatantly wrong.

“Clubs need to recognise that the way they’re structured isn’t consistent with the 21st century by restricting the rights of women to play golf on weekends,” Ms Green said.

The commission published new anti-sexism guidelines for golf clubs last week, which would bring them in line with the Sex Discrimination Act.

Equality

The guidelines call for female members to have greater playing opportunities and more involvement in the governance of clubs.

Sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins said clubs have fallen behind the standard of equality expected by the community.

“With its use of a unique handicap system, golf is particularly well placed to be an inclusive game for people of all genders, ages and abilities,” Ms Jenkins said.

“However, participation rates for women and girls remain low and issues of equal opportunity persist.”

Royal Fremantle general manager Gavin Burt says the club has tried to increase female participation in recent years.

“The guidelines have come at a good time” Mr Burt says.

“We’re currently in the process of reviewing our membership categories to encourage more gender neutrality.

“The mood of this particular club is very open to equality.”

The Fremantle club’s big star is Minjee Lee, currently ranked number 3 in international women’s golf.

Melville Glades has already started to turn the corner, introducing a ladies competitions on a Saturday earlier this year.

General manager Matt Espie says 25 women have playing rights on Saturday and he wants to attract more, but warns there are challenges.

“The game of golf is set up to be equal – it makes sense for clubs to go that way,” Mr Espie says.

But clubs can be hard to budge, as the demographic is usually older and more conservative, and constitutions often require 75 per cent of members to agree to any rule changes.

“You speak to most managers and boards of clubs and they know it needs to happen, but at the end of the day we listen to our members more,” he says.

Ms Green says the HRC guidelines are limited without the support of club members. She says it’s difficult to drum up support as even some of the female members are happy with the status quo.

“Some women don’t want to play with men or pay the same fees,” she says. “They’re happy how it is.”

Ms Green is considering going back to tennis if things stay the same, but says she’ll never stop fighting for gender equality.

“The time for revolution is now!”

Stories by CHARLIE BRAY

One from the rough

THE head of golf’s peak body in WA has tried to brush off the Human Rights Commission’s concerns about discrimination as a bit of a misunderstanding.

Golf WA chief executive Gary Thomas says women are allowed to play on Saturdays if they have a full membership.

“When they say ‘men’s day’, they really mean ‘full members’ day’,” Mr Thomas said.

“The reality is that the vast majority of full members have been men.”

Mr Thomas says “most” clubs provide equal opportunity for women.

But the Royal Fremantle Golf course’s rules seem pretty clear; under a helpful blue banner a “male” is offered five membership categories to choose from, with the top rung highlighted as “7-day” and setting him back a cool $3763 a year.

Under her pink banner, a “lady” gets just three choices, the top rate significantly lower than a male club-mate who plays five days a week.

Saturday afternoons are for “full male members competition”, while the business ladies can play in the morning, but are subject to an overseer to let the club know of any change to their work status.

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